How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Litchfield Park Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Litchfield Park AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Litchfield Park homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Litchfield Park AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Litchfield Park AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Litchfield Park AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Litchfield Park AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Litchfield Park AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Litchfield Park AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Litchfield Park AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Litchfield Park AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Litchfield Park AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Litchfield Park AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Litchfield Park Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Litchfield Park residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Litchfield Park Arizona.